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Luminae glass keyboard: From vaporware to reality

CES-goers run their fingers over the sleek glass curves and ogle the ever-changing color glow options of the Luminae keyboard.

Luminae keyboard
LEDs in the Luminae keyboard give it millions of potential color options. Amanda Kooser/CNET

LAS VEGAS--When the Luminae glass keyboard project concluded its campaign on Kickstarter in early 2012, it was pretty much just a glimmer in its creator's eye, more an idea than a product. That didn't stop it from nearly tripling its funding goal. Move ahead to CES 2013 and the Luminae from TransluSense is very much a real thing, and it's a thing of beauty.

A light pipe, infrared LEDs, and visible LEDs feed signals into the artfully curved glass. Three cameras look upward from below and see when your fingers break the light pattern. That's how it recognizes what you're doing on the glass. A smaller trackpad version will also be available.

So what's the purpose of a glass keyboard, especially one that costs $500? For starters, you'll never have to shake, toothpick, or vacuum crumbs out from under your keys ever again. Ultimately, the real answer is that it just plain looks awesome.

Another secret makes this keyboard appealing. Customers can design their own custom overlays online and set the keyboard to recognize all the custom keys and shortcuts. If you get tired of it, just peel it off and apply a new one. It also offers multitouch. You can slap a trackpad area on the side if you want to.

Luminae creator Jason Giddings got the idea for the keyboard from watching sci-fi movies, where so many future interfaces are see-through. He calls the concept "eye candy." It took plenty of design and software development to turn his sci-fi idea into a real device.

The reward is a gaggle of gorgeous glass keyboards sitting at CES, glowing in different shades of red, blue, white, and purple. Luminae expects to be shipping to customers in about three months, giving the developers time to work out some kinks in the software. That time frame may be a bit generous considering the project's long history of delays. Still, being able to actually touch one of these keyboards is a big step in the right direction.